Sunday, April 28, 2013

Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayonnaise Salad

Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayonnaise Salad with Bacon Garnish

Bacon and Black Pepper Add Zip to this Main-Course Salad

We often think of salads as starters, but they can make great main-course dishes too. Chef’s Salad is a classic luncheon or light supper entrée. Ditto Salade Niçoise. And don't forget that great take on the bacon, lettuce, and tomato sandwich, the BLT Salad.

Looking for another entrée salad? Try this flavorful and filling Chicken, Lettuce, and Mayonnaise Salad. Brighten it up with some ripe tomatoes, and flavor it up with freshly ground black pepper and bacon garnish, and you’ve got a complete dinner. Well, almost — you might want to add a hunk of bread and maybe a glass of wine.

This dish is simple, convenient (you can even use supermarket rotisserie chicken), and quick to make. So it’s perfect for those evenings when you don’t have a lot of time to get dinner on the table, but want a home meal and not take-out.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Homemade Mayonnaise

Wire Whisk with Homemade Mayonnaise, on Black Acrylic

You Can Make Your Own By Hand in Under Five Minutes

Homemade mayonnaise is quick and easy to make.  Yet the thought of doing so scares the pants off most of us.

And anyway, we don’t have a lot of incentive.  After all, when it comes to mayo, we can just pick up Hellmann’s, Miracle Whip, or a store brand.  All of these get the job done, and reasonably well.  But would you say that any of them have flavor you’d call memorable?  Yeah, I didn’t think so.

Well, if you can hold a whisk in one hand while dribbling oil into a bowl with the other, you can make your own mayonnaise — and its flavor will be tons better than anything you buy.  Plus, you’ll know exactly what’s in your mayo:  no preservatives, “stabilizers,” or other weird ingredients.  (You can also make mayonnaise in the food processor, and I’ll include instructions for that in the Notes.)

Oh, and making it in under 5 minutes?  I lied.  The actual active time — by hand! — is two minutes or less.  I’m spotting you 3 minutes to amble into the kitchen, find an egg and some oil, measure out ingredients, and so forth.  You can handle that, no?

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Moroccan Carrot Salad on plate, overhead view

This Zesty, Lightly Cooked Starter Doubles as a Side

We tend to treat carrots as supporting players — they may serve as flavor enhancers for soups or stews, or as a sidekick to meat.  When served raw, they often function mainly to convey dip from bowl to mouth. 

But with their terrific flavor and color, carrots are well worth serving on their own.

And this traditional Moroccan dish brings out their potential.  Brief cooking mellows their woody texture, while gentle spices mix with lemon and olive oil to envelop them in smooth, subtle flavor. 

Like many Moroccan “salads,” this one can be eaten at the beginning of the meal, or as a side dish (where it pairs exceptionally well with grilled and roasted poultry, fish, or meat).

Either way, it will steal the show at your table. 

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad

Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad on plate, overhead view

Serve this Fragrant Dish as a Starter or Side

In my local markets, California navel oranges are plentiful, inexpensive, and of excellent quality.  In fact, their peak season runs from February through April, so we’re now getting them at their sweetest and most succulent.  I’ve been feasting on citrus all winter — peeling and eating it for breakfast, snacks, and desserts.  But with warm weather arriving, it’s time to use oranges in salads.

Enter this Moroccan Orange and Radish Salad.  It combines sweet oranges with peppery grated radishes — and then douses everything with aromatic orange blossom water.  That may sound a bit odd, but the combination works extraordinarily well. 

You can serve this dish as either a starter or a side (it goes great with grilled meats or barbecue).  And because it’s sweet (with a hint of spice), you could even get away with serving it as a savory dessert. 

So think of this as three recipes in one.  You can’t get any more versatile than that!

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Shaved Artichoke and Mushroom Salad

Shaved Artichoke and Mushroom Salad on plate with napkin and fork

Welcome Spring with this Fresh-Tasting Raw Salad

Artichokes need some taming before they’re kitchen ready.  That’s because they’re actually thistles.  The mature plant has an inedible choke and sharp thorns.  So we need to trim them.

Then we need to cook the artichokes before we consume them.  Usually. 

Would you believe you can eat artichokes raw?  Well, you can, although you have to prepare them properly.  Which means slicing them thinly (i.e., shaving them) so they’re easy to eat.
 
Why bother, you might ask, when a cooked artichoke is so delicious served with melted butter or Hollandaise Sauce? Well, because it’s nice to have variety. Besides, you’ve never really tasted an artichoke until you’ve eaten one raw — the flavor has a whole ‘nother dimension.

Toss a shaved artichoke with some mushrooms, lemon juice, and extra virgin olive oil, and you have a salad fit for royalty.

That’s you, right?

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Salade Frisée aux Lardons

Salade Frisée aux Lardons on Plate with Fork Breaking into Poached Egg

Bacon, Poached Egg, and Curly Endive Star in this French Bistro Salad

Salade Frisée aux Lardons is made with curly endive, garnished with crisp bacon or salt pork, and topped (usually) with a poached egg.  Though originally a country-style dish, it has long been a bistro specialty throughout much of France. 

It’s not hard to see why.  This is a simple dish filled with hearty flavors.  Depending on portion size, it can work equally well as a starter or a main course.  During the cold-weather months, I like this as a first course, followed by a stew or soup.  During the spring and summer, when my taste turns to lighter fare, a largish serving of this salad makes a great dinner — especially if accompanied by some nice bread and a glass of wine.

If you’re already familiar with Salade Frisée aux Lardons, I don’t need to sell you on how great it is.  But if this recipe is new to you, be forewarned:  This may become your new favorite salad.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Caesar Salad

Caesar Salad on Plate with Croutons, Overhead View

A Remake of a 20th Century Classic

Everyone has heard of Caesar Salad.  But you may not know that it was invented in 1924 by Caesar Cardini, who operated a restaurant in Tijuana, Mexico (just across the border from San Diego, California).  At the time, Prohibition was in full swing in the US.  So many people in southern California took a drive to Tijuana to slake their thirst with a cocktail.  Or two.  While there, they generally got something to eat.  Enter Caesar Cardini, and his famous salad.

The original was different from what is today served as Caesar Salad.  The 21st century iteration tends to be heavy on anchovies and garlic, and the dressing may be a creamy one with Dijon mustard or mayonnaise.  By contrast, the original salad had a more low-key profile.  Garlic infused the croutons that accompanied the salad, but not the salad itself.  The dressing contained only olive oil, lemon juice, raw egg, salt, pepper, and some drops of Worcestershire — which contains a tiny bit of anchovy.  That was it.

The original version is good (I'll give you the recipe for that, too).  But I much prefer the umami-rich Caesar Salad that’s more often prepared today.  It may not be “authentic,” but the flavor is much better. 

And it’s easy to make at home.  So you don’t need to visit Tijuana.

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

The Algonquin Cocktail

Algonquin Cocktail in Cocktail Glass with Books and Almonds in Background

Named After the Hotel Made Famous by the Roundtable Literary Set

In the years after World War I, a group of New York City writers, critics, and assorted artsy types met for lunch almost daily at the Algonquin Hotel on West 44th Street (the theatre district). This articulate group — masters of both witty repartee and practical jokes — initially dubbed themselves the “Vicious Circle.” But they quickly became known as the Algonquin Round Table, after the seating space they staked claim to in the hotel dining room.

During the group’s heyday (from 1919 to about 1929), it included Robert Benchley, Heywood Broun, George S. Kaufman, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker, Harold Ross, Robert E. Sherwood, and Alexander Woollcott, among others.  Many Roundtable members were already famous; others soon became so.  And they helped launch The New Yorker magazine (founded in 1925 by Round Tabler Harold Ross).

This was a hard-drinking bunch — even by the standards of those hard-drinking days.  But Prohibition started in 1920.  So, although the Algonquin has at least one cocktail named after it, Wikipedia informs us that the hotel was officially “dry” during the time the Round Table set met there for lunch.

More about that later.  First, let’s mix up an Algonquin Cocktail!